Annihilation is a science fiction horror movie written and directed by Alex Garland. It is based on a novel of the same name. You may or may not have heard of Garland. If you haven’t it will likely surprise you to learn that he is the mind behind some stellar work. He is credited as the screenwriter for films such as; 28 Days Later, Sunshine & Dredd. For all you gamers out there, he was the co-writer for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Not only that but he wrote and directed Ex Machina (2015) which is absolutely fantastic, a must watch if you haven’t seen it. Annihilation ran into a couple of roadblocks regarding its release. Paramount Pictures made the decision to have it release theatrically but only in North America. If you live anywhere in the rest of the world you can check it out right now on Netflix.
The film stars Natalie Portman and follows a group of military scientists who enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.
At the U.S. government’s Area X facility on a southern coast, cellular biology professor and former U.S. Army soldier Lena (Portman) undergoes a quarantined debriefing about an expedition into an anomaly called “the shimmer”, from which she and her husband are the only survivors.
In a flashback, Lena’s husband returns without warning to their home. He had gone missing on a mission nearly a year ago. He remembers nothing of that time and suddenly becomes very ill. A government security force intercepts them on the way to a hospital and brings them to Area X. This is near where a shimmering electromagnetic field began to spread three years earlier.
Psychologist Dr. Ventress recruits Lena into the project. She explains that military teams, including one with her husband Kane had ventured into the shimmer to reach a lighthouse. This is where the shimmer first appeared. No one except Kane, now in a coma, ever returned. Lena joins Ventress on a research expedition consisting of them, physicist Josie Radeck, anthropologist Cass Sheppard, and paramedic Anya Thorensen. Lena does not reveal to her teammates, other than Ventress, that Kane is her husband.
Guidance technology fails, the team forgets extensive periods of time, and a mutated alligator attacks Josie. The team rescues her, and learns that the alligator shows signs of being hybridized with a shark. At an abandoned military base, the team discovers evidence of Kane’s expedition. Video on a memory card shows Kane cutting open a living expedition member to reveal that something inside him is moving.
Things only get stranger from then on. Will the team reach the lighthouse and discover the origin of the Shimmer. Will they understand what the Shimmer does to those that dare enter it? Check out Annihilation to find out.
If you’re a fan of any of Garland’s previous work then I see no reason to believe that you won’t love Annihilation as much as I did. I can see this being one of those films that will be rather divisive much like Sunshine, which is one of my favourite movies. Some might accuse Annihilation of being slow paced. Personally, I found it to be completely engrossing from start to finish. The story it tells might not be the most original. In fact, I can see a lot of similarities to other movies. However, Annihilation tells its tale in such unique fashion that it ends it being unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Its 115 minute runtime flew by but my intrigue never diminished. Even when you do get answers, it doesn’t bog things down by over-explaining them.
The most common aspect of Annihilation that you’ll hear praised are its fascinating visuals. Most of the effects used are practical and it pays off big time. Even those that are not still manage to be striking enough that they never detract from the stunning effects.
If you’re wondering about the horror elements in the film then fear not. Annihilation delivers a number of creepy moments. One in particular involving a mutated bear is very memorable, one that will likely stick with you long after. Also, there is a surprising amount of blood and gore and it looks tremendous.
Just about everyone involved does a really good job here. A special mention for Natalie Portman who knocks it out of the park once again. A negative would be that you don’t really learn much about the characters which does little to make you truly care about their survival. Also, knowing that Lena is the only survivor from the start kills some of the suspense. It was a nice refreshing change to see a group of all women for once though.
Another thing that will be divisive is the ending. Again, I can understand why but personally I really enjoyed it. Things are fairly clear by the time the credits roll, I was satisfied.
Overall, Annihilation is another amazing film from Alex Garland. I didn’t realise I was such a fan until I noticed how much of his work there is that I adore. Seriously, this is a film worth seeing and it’s extremely accessible. If you have a Netflix subscription then get on there and show your support for something truly different.